Articles

If You Slip And Fall

Slip and falls can be funny in slapstick comedies when stunt specialists, protected with padding and knowing how to fall properly, taken on-screen tumbles.

But in real life, slip and falls are a leading cause of serious injury, even the leading cause of serious injury. Even the smallest trip-up can result in a great deal of damage to ankles, legs, arms, hands, back or head.

What causes falls? Among the many contributing factors are ice and snow, slippery materials on floors, stairs with faulty handrails, uneven concrete or slate sidewalks, improperly secured carpets or mats, and objects placed unsafely in people's paths.

Anyone who has a slip-and-fall accident and experiences injury should try to do several things. First, get immediate medical assistance. Second, ask for the names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses who saw the fall. Third, try to save any evidence related to the fall, such as a squashed piece of fruit and the shoes worn at the time. Fourth, contact legal counsel.

Workplace Injuries Workers' Compensation Not Always Enough

For a worker severely injured on the job, workers' compensation is often a key source of financial support during recovery and rehabilitation. A workers' compensation program is a state-operated and guaranteed insurance plan that covers medical bills and replaces lost wages for employees.

But many workers' compensation programs limit benefits for seriously injured employees. Most replace, at maximum, only two-thirds of salary, exclude fringe benefits, and may be capped for cost-of-living adjustments. Workers' compensation also usually offers no or little compensation for pain and suffering.

Seriously injured workers face other restrictions as well. Workers' compensation benefits may be cut or ended if the worker is judged to still be able to earn money. Employers may also require a worker to take additional medical and vocational examinations to assess the extent of disability and lost earning power.

Other Protections

Injured workers, confronted by restrictions imposed by workers' compensation plans, can seek legal counsel, which can sometimes identify other sources of financial compensation and recovery equal to the cost of the employee's injuries. In some cases, investigating the accident scene and talking to witnesses can lead to third-party claims for compensation.

Auto Accidents Seven Slip-Ups

Time and experience have shown that drivers can make seven mistakes that forfeit rights and limit opportunities for fair restitution in auto accidents.

1. Failing to call the police. Without an official police accident record, it is, unfortunately, one driver's word against the other's about what happened. All claims bear equal weight.

2. Consenting to working out auto damage repairs and medical injury care with a trusting handshake. People can change their minds and tell different stories.

3. Declining an immediate check-up and ongoing medical assistance. A neck that started hurting a week after the collision is harder to justify. Also, insurance companies often counter that delayed pain may come from an existing condition or an earlier or subsequent occurrence.

4. Failing to collect or exchange information with other drivers, passengers or eyewitnesses. The document trail of evidence and statements can make or break a claim.

5. Forgetting to notify your insurance company. You paid the insurance premiums, but by forgetting to call, you may incur out-of-pocket costs that the insurer should cover.

6. Saying "It was my fault." Be fair to yourself. This accident may really not have been your responsibility.

7. Not consulting an attorney. It's often said, "He who defends himself has a fool for a client." Omitting legal representation cedes your rights to the other driver's insurance company.

Lawsuit Q&A

Q: How can I tell if I have a legitimate claim for a lawsuit?

A: The best way to see if you have a viable legal claim is to consult an attorney.

Q: Why is that?

A: A lawyer knows the law and is thus in a better position to evaluate the details of your situation to make a professional determination of the claim.

Q: What will it cost for a lawsuit?

A: It all depends, though a common approach is a contingent fee contract. This is when an attorney represents a client and bases compensation on a percentage of the amount recovered in the suit, plus costs. The client faces no out-of-pocket expenses. You pay the lawyer only if he or she wins your case.

Q: Are there other financial arrangements?

A: Yes. Depending on the issues in the case, some clients prefer to pay for services on an hourly basis, a retainer basis or a combination of the two.

Why People Trip And Fall

Although some people fall because they are not watching where they are going or because they feel faint, many falls involve safety hazards over which they have no realistic control.

Premises defects. Store employees may obstruct an aisle floor with stacked boxes or display merchandise. Tree roots may lift a sidewalk section. Workmen may have improperly installed shower safety bars.

Dangerous conditions. Restaurants may not clean up slippery food on the floor in front of a salad bar. A machine shop's floor mats may pop up when they overlap.

Failure to maintain a safe property. A stairway may have loose handrails. Someone's swimming pool may have inadequate fencing or other safeguards.

Anatomy Of A Trip And Fall

When a 54-year-old woman tripped at a restaurant, she struck her head and suffered a detached retina, eventually losing vision in one eye. When she brought suit, her attorney, with the help of an expert engineering witness, reported that water leakage two years earlier had loosened floor tiles and that many customers and staff had stumbled there. In addition, the expert said the missing tiles violated local building codes and that $10 was all that was needed to make full repairs. The defendant claimed that posting a "Watch Your Step" sign and placing a mat over the uneven floor were adequate safety measures. The jury thought otherwise and concluded that the restaurant was 90 percent at fault for the injury.

CONSIDER SEEKING LEGAL COUNSEL IF YOU SUFFER A TRIP-AND-FALL INJURY.

Attorney-Client Privilege

Q: What does attorney-client privilege mean?

A: Without the client's permission, an attorney may not disclose confidential information that a client has communicated to him or her.

Q: Is every communication covered by privilege?

A: No. Attorney-client privilege protects only that spoken or written information conveyed to an attorney hired by the client, and which is communicated when the client is seeking the attorney's legal counsel on a matter. Counsel unrelated to a legal matter is not privileged.

Q: What about cellphones or email communication?

A: Care must be taken with their use, since third parties may eavesdrop even on supposedly secure or encrypted communications.

Q: Who "owns" the privilege?

A: Only the client, who breaks it by inadvertently communicating the information to a third party.

Q: Must an attorney's employees honor the privilege?

A: Yes, other members of the firm — attorneys, legal assistants, paralegals and clerical staff — honor attorney-client privilege.

Q: How long does the privilege exist?

A: Only a client's authorization or a court's ruling can break it.

Contingency Fees: Helpful And Valuable

Contingency fees offer personal injury clients a valuable advantage. They enable anyone who suffers an injury to bring a lawsuit without having the money upfront to pay an attorney. With contingency fees, attorneys agree to accept a portion of the recovery and agree that if the client does not win and there is no recovery, there will be no fee.

Why does the contingent fee system serve clients and work so well? Contingency fees ...

1. Give everyone — regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, marital status, age or other factors — an equal chance to have their day in court, no matter what their financial resources may be. Individuals with limited assets can sue the richest, most powerful corporations, which often have unlimited money for legal defense fees.

2. Promote efficiency and discourage frivolous lawsuits by motivating lawyers to make sure that the cases they accept have legitimacy and merit.

3. Are fair, since there is no cost to the client unless he or she wins.

4. Discourage wrongdoers from continuing inappropriate behaviors.

What Caused This Accident?

Automobile accidents in which drivers or passengers are seriously injured or killed are always terrible. When there is doubt about the cause of an accident, which may be hidden by vehicle damage, an experienced trial attorney can research and investigate the real cause of harm. These are two actual accident cases.

Safety-check failure

Three disabled residents returning from a picnic outing were killed when ejected from their van, which overturned in a crash. A jury awarded compensatory damages and punitive damages to the decedents' survivors when investigation revealed liability on the part of the group home. Research showed that the group home was negligent in hiring the driver, who had extensive criminal and traffic violation records. He also failed to conduct a safety check on the van, which had a flat tire, prior to departure because he was driving under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs.

Negligent hiring

After a driver who was struck from behind by an 18-wheel truck suffered brain damage, examination revealed that the truck drivers' employer and a professional driving organization had failed to conduct criminal background checks, which would have revealed the driver's two previous accidents and felon status. The injured driver and his wife received a negligence settlement from the trucking company following the first day of trial.

Whiplash Injury

Whiplash, a common and potentially serious soft-tissue injury resulting from auto accidents, occurs when the head is snapped violently backward and then forward. It can injure intervertebral disks and joints, as well as nerves, ligaments and muscles. Although insurance companies often trivialize such injuries, they can be serious and painful.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety and Administration, more than 800,000 American drivers and passengers suffer whiplash annually, with total associated medical and lost work-time costs amounting to $5.2 billion.

To reduce whiplash injury potential, adjust car headrests per owner's manual guides, practice defensive motoring, and avoid speeding or unsafe drivers. Properly restrain all children.

Physicians use X-rays and physical examinations to diagnose whiplash, which may be treated with medications as well as surgical or physical therapies. Whiplash injuries may take weeks to appear.

Anyone who is involved in an auto accident and suspects whiplash injury should consult a physician and an attorney.